Hubby is away, in Urfa on business. I’ve decided to stay home as its nearly panto time and I’ve got a script to finish, a cast to assemble and I need to crack my whip at rehearsals to get the guys into shape in just 6 weeks!
Last night, I had been invited to the 20th anniversary party of Andrew and Glen, two fun and fabulous guys with a touch of pink about them. Their timing is awful as today is Kurban Bayram and I am expected at the village early in the morning. The Feast of Bayram is an important time for the family and as such, the choice is easy to make.
As I am a girl with absolutely no willpower, I am unable to attend a fabulous party and stand on the side-lines drinking cola. I guess I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. So, as much as it pains me to miss out, I don the cardigan, put the librarian head on and stay at home. This does however enable me to put my time to good use by refining the panto script.
This morning, I’m up early for that all important first cup of tea as without it, well, you really wouldn’t like to talk to me. Showered, conservatively dressed and out the door by 9am, I drive smugly to the village patting myself on the back for abstaining the night before.
Turning into the village road, I am obstructed by a flatbed truck carrying a cow, on its way to meet its maker. The driver spies me in his mirror and pulls over so I can pass. Into the village I go avoiding hens and brightly dressed children before parking at my mother in laws gate.
At her door I realise I may be a tad late as there are only 2 pairs of shoes on the doorstep. Once inside I pass Dursun doing Namas in one of the bedrooms, Ramzier, skirt tucked in her waistband, pyjama bottoms on show and as usual, fanatically cleaning and in the salon is Mustafa, (Musi, Mitchi or Joseph – he answers to all of them), Murat’s youngest brother. We Iyi Bayramlar, shake hands and I sit on the beige and gold minder on the floor, red, black, yellow and blue, embroidered yastak at my back. Within two minutes Ramzier plonks a tray down in front of me full of goat’s cheese, breakfast cheese, hot village tomato sauce, homemade olives and bread. Then out comes the tea pot.
Brother in law Hassan arrives for his break from the dolmus run and joins me for breakfast.
We, as a family, contribute every year to the animal that will be sacrificed and at this time, brother in law Hussein, who in the last 2 years has turned extremely religious, is over at the sacrificial site doing his thing.
Breakfast over, myself, Dursun and Mustafa; drive over to see Nene who lives with Hider Amca, his wife Safiye and their four children. They have changed houses since I last saw them and are now right at the back of the village, over stony hills, ditches and trenches. No problem; I have a 4×4!
When we arrive, everyone is sitting outside in the sunshine. The new house is not quite as secure looking as their last. The roof is covered in corrugated iron and held down with tractor tires, but guess what, there is a satellite dish attached to it.
First I greet Nene by kissing her hand, then touching it to my head before I say İyi Bayramlar and kiss her on both cheeks. She is the only one I do this to, a) because she is very old and very traditional and b) she allows me to. It’s a custom that is mainly used these days (well with our family) by only the youngest of children and whenever young adults attempt it to the Amca’s, they stop them and simply do the cheek to cheek kiss. I then Iyi Bayramlar aunts with cheek kisses and the men with handshakes. The children then greet us the traditional way and we let them. I’ve already got 50tl in my hand which I give to Nene and tell her to give some to the children and keep the rest. The money disappears somewhere in the folds of all her clothing and this for some reason always reminds me of Les Dawson’s Washer woman (I really don’t know why).
Sadly, Nene knows no Turkish and I know only the minimum of Kurdish so our conversations are limited, but we get by.
Safiye is all prepared with the tea pot and we sit in the sun, listening to the hens clucking as we ‘ne var, ne yok’ and catch up on the news for a while until another car arrives. It’s Bedir Amca with his wife. Bedir is the eldest of the uncles and loved by one and all. We all stand up and wait for him to greet everyone before sitting down again. Today, he is dressed in a 3 piece fawn coloured suit and wearing a red and white pusi on his head. I ask after his health as it was only last week that he had a small operation and we chat about that for a while. He then asks me about Murat being in Urfa and we are then onto one of my favourite subjects as the conversation drifts though the importance of some of the historical sites in the East, how they relate to the bible and end with the reasons for the sacrificial feast. I love the way Bedir talks. He talks slowly, with great emphasis and his words are measured with not one wasted. As these conversations are taking place in Turkish, he will stop every now and then and ask me if I understand. Most of the time I do and then I voice my own opinions which he respects, even when they differ from his own. Another car arrives, its crazy uncle. Again we stand respectfully until he has greeted everyone and indicates that we should sit. Myself and Bedir continue, now on the subject of the feast of sacrifice from the bible, what it meant and why they continue to observe those beliefs. Crazy uncle always livens up any conversations with his loud, gruff voice which, to the uninitiated sounds aggressive and he joins in with gusto.
At the end of it all, we revert back to Bedirs ailments and I agree to make him some natural herbal potions to make him feel better.
It’s time to go. Back at Dursuns the door is closed so we invade Ayfares house next door (she ıs an aunt). We all have favourites don’t we? Well Ayfare is one of mine. She is the one village girl that is not brilliant at cooking or cleaning and neither am I so, we have a mutual reason to make fun of each other. She is also Helins mother and if you have read any of my newspaper columns or blogs before you will know that myself and Helin have had a very close bond since her birth.
Hussein has finished the sacrifice and we have dispatched Mustafa to go and fetch the meat. Until then we sit around, drink more cay and catch up on family gossip. We are talking about Ramzier getting married at the end of the year which means she will be leaving Dursuns house and moving in to Bedir Amcas house with her new husband Zeynel (Bedirs son). Yes cousins if anyone is wondering.
This will be a great loss to Dursun as Ramzier is the Tasmanian devil of cleaning and a great cook. She is totally invaluable to the household. In her place will be brother Hassan’s new wife who will take over Ramziers duties, but, she won’t be a patch on Ramzier. Ayfare suggests I move in and take over Ramziers duties and we all fall about laughing, even though I protest and say if I didn’t work so much on the computer I would be the best housewife and cook, no one believes me and the laughter does not subside!
My turn to retaliate and I amuse the room with an impression of Ayfare doing the cleaning, slowly with a cay in one hand and the remote control in the other, just as her husband Hussein arrives and pokes his head through the window. ‘Gerçekten Kym’ (that’s true) he says and we all fall about laughing.
When Mustafa returns with the meat, we all sit outside and watch Dursun and Ramzier, dice and slice chunks of meat while Ayfare gathers twigs to start the fire under the outside grate, as it balances on bricks to form a hob of sorts.
The guys sit over on rugs by the fire and I sit on the step with Helin & Berfin and occasionally kuçuk Murat who runs over to steal my backpack, tease Helin or generally look for trouble with his cheeky grin. At the age of 3 I think that is perfectly acceptable and I give him plenty of trouble by hanging him upside down and getting the girls to bite his belly!
By the time the meat is cooked, its 3pm. A tablecloth is laid on the rugs and we all jostle for space around it as we place roka and tera in our yufka (herbs in flat bread) then use it to grab chunks of meat, deftly wrapping it into small parcels with one hand (hey I’ve been doing this for 6 years now!!) before savouring. We wash all this down with fresh ayran, then I sit chatting and smoking with the men while the women clear up.
More tea arrives and I groan. I can’t fit anything more in! But no, the boys insist. If I don’t drink more tea, the fresh meat will not dissolve properly in my stomach!
Around 4pm, I say my goodbyes. Dursun tries to give me a parcel of meat but I refuse. I’m neither a huge meat eater nor a fond cook so I tell her I’ll come round later in the week for dinner instead.
On my way home I pop into Deli Michelle’s. She did go out and party last night and did not make it to her partner’s village this morning to join in the festivities. I tell her she is going to hell! She then feeds me chocolate, rum & raisin cheesecake and I think perhaps she will go to heaven after all.
Now here I am, home and comfy on the sofa when the phone rings. The girls are going out and do I want to go and play? I decide on another sacrifice and decline. I’ve got a script to finish and as the proceeds each year go to a local children’s charity, I’d say this takes priority over a night on the tiles, wouldn’t you?
So in the words of Bernie Taupin: It’s no sacrifice, no sacrifice, no sacrifice at all.